"Fast and Furious" Start for Roller Derby

Roars from enthusiastic fans and screeches from referees’ whistles call attention from over a block away. The excitement centers on a new sport establishing itself in Santiago and Chile at large. Roller derby has taken root in the Chilean sports scene and seems here to stay.

 Photo by Metropolitan Roller Derby Chile
Photo by Metropolitan Roller Derby Chile

Metropolitan Roller Derby Chile, the country’s first official league, in its inaugural championship tournament this April introduced Rápidas y furiosas en patines (Fast and furious skates), with three teams: Anfetamina Roller Girls, Hot Chili Roller Girls and Cannibales Dolls Roller Derby. Although new, the league has already established an enthusiastic fan base, the energy of which matches that of a smaller and friendlier form of Chile's fútbol fanaticos and for good reason. Their excitement comes from the fast-paced, hard-hitting spectacle that plays out on the gymnasium floor.

Face-painted fans wave flags and stomp their feet to support their team. Some have already developed chants and almost everybody roars. With a particularly hard hit or any score, which is every few seconds, the entire crowd erupts. Their enthusiasm is more than half the fun.

Roller derby is not for the timid or the frail. Players need to be tough as they subject themselves and their opponents to heavy pushes and shoves, flying elbows and hip checks. Skaters frequently end up in piles of tangled bodies as they knock each other to the ground, taking down many more with them and returning to their feet just as quickly. They must have stamina and resilience. Each one of these women earns every cheer.

 Photo by Metropolitan Roller Derby Chile
Photo by Metropolitan Roller Derby Chile

What else makes it fun is that roller derby is easy to follow. The rules are simple: each match consists of two teams playing against each other on an oval court with thirty-minute halves. The halves break down into two minute “jams” with short pauses in between for substitutions and score counting.

Both teams have five players on the court at a time: one jammer and four blockers. Jammers are the scoring players, and blockers, as the name suggests, block. In order to score, a jammer must pass the cluster of blockers twice in a row without the opposing jammer pulling ahead. Blockers use their bodies to prevent the opponent’s progress around the group, while at the same time making space to allow their own jammer to score.

The current tournament is for now the main focus. However, the league is already looking to the future, hoping to build roller derby into a major force within the Chilean sports scene. The directors have been recruiting new skaters for the past three months and have strategies in place to “install the sport as a serious and attractive show and activity to both watch and practice,” according to Marcela Aguilera, the league’s press contact. One of these strategies includes the growth of the sport throughout the whole country. Marcela adds that “[they] are the first league in the country, but by no means do [they] want to be the only one because the sport can’t develop in the country without competition.”

 Photo by Metropolitan Roller Derby Chile
Photo by Metropolitan Roller Derby Chile

While it certainly has a long way to go to become an established and popular sport, the league’s directors appear ready for the challenge. Between their recruiting and matches’ excitement, roller derby’s growth in the coming years looks promising. The current tournament is a hopeful beginning for an interesting and entirely new sport for Chile.
The excitement of the sport’s brutality combined with the relative simplicity of the rules, makes it easy to become a dedicated fan. As more teams join in Santiago roller derby, and more leagues from throughout the country, should soon enough make a name for itself.

Games will take place every Saturday from April 14 to June 16 at 5 pm in the Gimnasio Municipal de San Joaquin, Sierra Bella 2836. Coming from the Centro, take the 204 bus at Parada 6 from Santa Lucia and get off at Sierra Bella and Las Industrias. Admission is free. For more up-to-date information on times, dates, locations and other updates, visit http://www.rollerderby.cl/.

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